By Mary O’KEEFE
This week’s news that all Sport Chalet stores will be closed ends an era of the once retail sporting goods giant in the city of La Cañada Flintridge.
“After reviewing numerous strategies to strengthen our financial foundation, Vestis Retail Group, the parent company of Eastern Mountain Sports, Bob’s Stores and Sport Chalet, has developed a business plan focused on supporting the long-term success of EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) and Bob’s (Stores), while efficiently winding down Sport Chalet,” according to a statement from the Vestis Company.
Vestis Retail Group LLC officially filed for Chapter 11 on April 18 in the District of Delaware Court. Vestis is the parent company of EMS, Bob’s Stores and Sport Chalet. The company purchased Bob’s in 2008, EMS in 2012 and Sport Chalet in 2014.
“When Vestis first acquired EMS and Sport Chalet, each company faced significant operational challenges and was on the verge of liquidation. We have made significant progress in stabilizing the businesses and improving overall performance across all our brands,” stated Mark Walsh, Vestis’ CEO in a release. “As a result, EMS and Bob’s are now delivering solid performances but have been burdened by limited financial flexibility due, in part, to the unique competitive pressures facing Sport Chalet. After reviewing a variety of strategic alternatives, we determined that the best path forward is to separate the businesses and confront the challenges that have been hindering our overall progress. We are confident EMS and Bob’s will be well-positioned to thrive at the conclusion of the process.”
The Sport Chalet stores began store closing sales on April 16 at all locations. At the same time EMS and Bob’s began closing stores with a total of nine closures in various areas. The company has proposed the sale of EMS and Bob’s to funds “advised by Versa Capital Management, LLC, which would acquire substantially all of the remaining assets of the Company,” if approved by the courts.
There is not an exact date as to when all Sport Chalet stores will be closed, said Rachel Rosenblatt, the company’s spokesperson. The only information regarding a schedule of closures came from a press release that stated the stores will run “store closing sales for the next several weeks.”
More information concerning the store closures and what customers can expect are: The Sport Chalet eCommerce website is no longer selling merchandise as of April 16; Sport Chalet gift cards, rewards certificates and store credits will be honored in stores through April 29. Customers who are unable to visit the stores prior to the April 29 date can transfer the gift card balances to a gift card from one of the Company’s sister stores, EMS or Bob’s, through July 29. Customers are encouraged to pick up any equipment that had been left for repair and to return any rental equipment before April 29.
Sport Chalet has been struggling for a while. The lack of snow in recent years has reportedly contributed to part of the stores’ lagging sales. But for years the sport enthusiasts’ store was the place to go for all things sports-equipment related.
The store began in 1959 with Norbert Olberz and his wife Irene. They purchased a small ski and tennis shop and dedicated themselves to the store, often sleeping in the back room.
Over the years the business grew from the small sales and rental shop to a larger store, located where Sprouts Market is today. In the 1980s the Olberz family began to expand the business, opening stores in areas that included Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo and Santa Clarita. In the early 1990s Sport Chalet went public and the company continued to expand. But due to the downturn of the economy, bad skiing weather and competition, the stores began losing their strong financial grip. And in 2014 the Olberz family sold Sport Chalet to Vestis.
All 47 Sport Chalet stores will be closed. Vestis has not released how many employees will be affected by the closures. Another big box chain store that is feeling the financial heat is Sports Authority, which in early March filed for Chapter 11 as well. The store will reportedly sell or close about 140 stores.
For more information on Sport Chalet gift cards visit www.SportChalet.com.